Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Leadership Orientation: Social Media

By Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

Did you know ...

  • Social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the US.
  • A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009.
  • Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day.
  • The number of social media users age 65 and older grew 100 percent throughout 2010, so that one in four people in that age group are now part of a social networking site.
  • As of May 2012 Facebook has 901 million users.  In June 2011, it was reported that iPhone applications hit one billion in nine months, and Facebook added 100 million users in less than nine months.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the world's third largest in terms of population, larger even than the US.
  • In June 2011, it was also reported that U.S. Department of Education study revealed that online students out-performed those receiving face-to-face instruction.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • One in six higher education students are enrolled in an online curriculum.

What is Social Media?

* a group of internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.  Social software mediates human communication via consumer-generated media (CGM).
    There are 6 different types of social media:
    1. Collaborative Projects (e.g. Wikipedia)
    2. Blogs and Microblogs (e.g. BloggerTwitter)
    3. Content Communities (e.g. YouTube)
    4. Social Networking Sites (e.g. Facebook)
    5. Virtual Game Worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft)
    6. Virtual Social Worlds (e.g. Second Life)

    What is the purpose of Social Media?

    Social media provides an environment where users and professionals can converse, and where professionals can promote their brand and improve their organization's image by listening and responding to what the public is saying about them.  One of the founding concepts in social media has become that you cannot completely control your message but rather you can simply begin to participate in the "conversation", expecting that you can achieve a significant influence in that conversation.

    Why is Social Media good for non-profits like VRPS?

    • It is easily accessible to everyone who has internet technology available.
    • It is free!
    • It is "social", and we humans are social animals.  We don't want to miss out.
    • It requires minimal resources to publicly publish information - in regards to both people and time.
    • Variety is the spice of life, and the availability of various platforms and mediums satisfies users with varying levels of time and preference.
    • Marketing, impressions, and "the voice" of an organization is generated by the user community, not simply the organization itself.

    All that being said, in the VRPS world, there are presently three main components in which you, the user community, may be "heard" (or "herd" if you prefer ... :)

    Website is maintained by Central Office.  Some Resource Groups and Service Areas, as well as committees, are maintaining their own pages with occasional guidance from the Central Office.  We are working to evolve to a less textual, more graphical and user-friendly structure, which will be the central location for VRPS business at hand.

    Publications (magazine, newsletter, E-update, blasts)
    Society input is compiled and distributed by Central Office, with the exception of Service Area newsletters. Again, some committees manage their own email blasts.  We are working to evolve to a shorter, more concise E-Update that can be read quickly, with the option of delving deeper, via links, at the discretion of the reader.

    Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn, YouTube) Central Office manages the different venues. Some Service Areas and Resource Groups have established and manage their own as well. We are working to evolve to a much greater presence, with far more input of value both from and for you, our community.

    What can you do?

    1. Encourage online registration and payment.  This frees Central Office resources considerably, so that efforts can be redirected elsewhere, on your behalf.
    2. Submit E-update content with at least one week notice.  Our goal is to reduce the size of the weekly Wednesday E-update so that it contains mostly new content, is more concise, and thereby appreciated more!
    3. Identify individuals within your organization to manage your web pages, communication blasts, and social media.  We will be happy to provide guidance and/or collaborative effort as well.
    4. Like, Follow, Subscribe, Connect, and Share us!  As you have learned, social media is promoted from the ground-up.  We need your input; you are in the trenches, where the action is.  In order to promote VRPS and its membership community, we want to encourage personal networking and experiences, which you bring to the table.
    5. Blog:  we are tired of hearing ourselves!  Did someone in your organization write an interesting piece or put together a great video or collection of photos?  Send them to us and we can promote their work.
    6. Send us your feedback!  What do you want to see or learn about that we are not currently addressing?  Let us know, via our social media platforms or email.
    7. Let us in:  WE ARE BOUNCING!  Several organizations "filter" our emails and blasts when they are generated by our Association Management Software (sent from "") or our marketing email software (sent from "" ).  We spend a considerable amount of time processing the "bounces" by notifying users when their confirmations fail to reach them.  Please contact your IT department to see if your ISP is filtering us!

    We appreciate your time and interest in keeping our Society strong, relevant, and engaged with its members!

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    HOWL-O-SCREAMING Parenting Advice from VRPS

    By Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

    The best cure for a mouthy teen is a zombie chasing them with a chainsaw.  If this little tip gets out to the parenting world, there will be a rush on theme parks featuring Halloween fright around the world.  Parents of surly ingrates will be rushing the gates, dragging their prodigy.

    I've lived in Central Virginia for thirteen years, and this was my first Howl-O-Scream.  I suppose the lure of the many callers inquiring at the VRPS Central Office regarding discount tickets was too much to resist.  Off I went - on the last Friday of the last weekend of October, just hours ahead of Sandy, along with my three teens and Spouse.  The cloud cover was evident, the misty rain prevalent, and the mood anticipatory.

    As we entered the first haunted house, my thoughts were simply on the spookiness of everything - fog machines, dim lighting, creepy screaming and music.  Within the first two minutes, it became apparent that the freaked reaction of my teens was far more entertaining.  They were petrified.  Middle clung to Oldest, ready to use her as a human shield to doom and terror, for the sake of self-preservation.  They raced through, wanting the misery to be over rather than relishing the performances and decor.

    And that was just the first one.  We managed to "enjoy" three more, much to the dismay of Middle and Youngest.  Oldest eventually joined into the spirit of things and for some reason became a favored victim of the bloodied clowns and zombies with power tools - something about her pink sweatshirt, bobbing ponytail, and unfortunate trusting nature....  Yes, I will admit, we MADE them go instead of letting them branch off and binge on rides - you know, all for the sake of safety (it was dark) and family time.

    A great deal of personality can be devised from one's reaction to fear:

    • How deep does the fright or flight instinct go?  In the case of my Offspring, they are pure flight, through and through.
    • Is there a concern for others?  Youngest gave me a good shove here and there, so maybe not so much.
    • What degree of self-control is exhibited (putting on a brave face and all that)?  Zero.
    I suppose the same analysis can be said for us, the parents; Spouse and I thoroughly, totally, COMPLETELY enjoyed watching them get the #$%& scared out of them.  So, in addition to the remarkably clean restrooms (yes, we visited most if not all of them), the super-helpful staff (at least the living ones), and the efficient thrill ride queue process (nothing beats the Griffon or Apollo's Chariot at night, much less the front row!), the terror is TOP-NOTCH.  Therefore, my advice is this:  next year, clear your calendar one evening and enjoy Howl-O-Scream.  Drag your wayward teens, relish in their terror, and make some family memories.